Interview: Jonne and Tuomas of Korpiklaani – Vevey February 2018

A few days ago, I had the great opportunity to interview one of the greatest folk metal bands and also my favourite, Korpiklaani. I had previously seen them in Paris and decided to jump at the chance in Vevey the day after their concert. Many thanks to Claire and Philipp from Nuclear Blast for arranging this interview and also to Jonne Järvelä and Tuomas Rounakari for their time and kindness.

Hello! How are you?

Jonne: I’m good, we’re halfway through the tour. We’ve been touring one and a half weeks and it’s been really good. Lovely people and good shows. Everything’s been smooth and it’s really nice.

I’m going straight to the subject. I know you have a new song for this tour, what’s the name of it?

J: “Henkselipoika”

What is it about?

J: It’s about when you’re looking for the good mood of a summer evening. It’s in a kind of country house and our character is looking for girls and he’s thinking about who will be his future wife. He’s trying to find a way to be “available” to the level, and to be a good man for this.

So does it mean the upcoming album release is soon?

J: Yeah, it’s done now. We will release it next autumn, after the summer time.

Over the albums, I noticed that Korpiklaani acquired a more and more unified sound with a violin and accordion duo well built in to it. Is this the musical direction to which you aspire?

J: Yes actually we are getting more there. The violin and accordion are arranged that way and they are actually played for this band. Both are solo instruments as well, you don’t have any typical guitar solo, they take care about that. I think that on the new upcoming album, it’ll be even clearer.

What I especially liked on the two last albums is the appearance of darker composition, I think you kind of thumbed your nose at them so was it on purpose or just the natural way for your compositions to evolve ?

J: Everything is natural. We don’t think about what people think and what kind of album we are going to do. This time it was great to see it was really really strong. It’s quite a long album but those songs hold up all the time.

I’m pretty happy with these songs because even if I don’t usually listen to them, they are great during your shows. They make a break and it’s a different mood or atmosphere. That’s really cool. Also I noticed that the songs on which the folkloric parts were fewer like the older ones tend to rarify, yet you keep on playing them pretty often on tour. Do they bring a certain balance you don’t have with the newest ones ?

J: It doesn’t have much to do with that, actually people want to hear them and we’re trying to be as fun as possible.

Tuomas: And also we have too many good songs. If we didn’t like the songs anymore, we wouldn’t play them.

There are songs like “Viima” or “Metsämies” that I didn’t really know before and when I saw them live, I just liked them better.

T: Yes, I think we have developed ourselves during the last five years or so and we’re a lot better as a band. So the band who recorded “Viima” is not the same band anymore. We’ve improved, like every single band in our way to be, so this is why the songs sound better.

This is especially true for the song “Kipumylly”, I got the DVD you made (Live at Masters of Rock). I didn’t know the song either but I found the live version a lot better than the studio one.

J: Yeah something went wrong, I don’t think it was as good as it should be on the studio but now we have the staff/means to make it better !

But the song at the origin was good, this is why you made something better.

J: Yeah.

T: We played that song like for a hundred times so it helps, we brought it to the level it should be.

Back to the new album. Can we expect something in the same vein as Manala and Noita? Maybe a similar format?

J: I can’t compare it with something we’ve done before, it is actually a totally new kind of Korpiklaani album. We have a new producer and a new guy who mixes the album. There are 14 songs so the format will be completely different but maybe there’ll be something similar on some songs as well.

T: It will have the music of Korpiklaani, it will sound like Korpiklaani and it will feel like Korpiklaani, but I feel there’s a clear continuation from Manala to Noita and from Noita to this album. It’s really a feel good album. There’s the strong feeling of the stories on most of the songs which is really important and I guess that from playing, it’s a much more natural feel good. It’s less produced but more musical. That’s one way to look at the music. To me, a lot of albums are over-produced. They are over-produced to the point that the music is not alive anymore. Like you can put in the song everything so that it’ll be exact technically, in the intonation and all… It ends up sounding like a machine.

J: We did that too but now we didn’t, it’s more natural.

T: Especially on the violin because there were a lot of mistakes.

J: And on my vocal parts.

T: And that creates freshness and liveliness and more natural feel good. I like it.

I noticed that on different albums from many bands who have worked and honed their album so much that it can’t sound the same live, it’s not the same at all.

J: We can do the same, that’s the nice thing about it.

On a totally different topic, one of the reasons I like to see you guys is that I love to see you dance in stage. And I especially liked what you did on “Tequila” in Paris. You dance with these new trousers and I found it really cool because that’s how I got into traditional folkloric music and culture. But I don’t know anything about Finnish dance so maybe you could tell me or show me more about it ?

J: This is just what I do, it’s not Finnish folkloric dance, it’s just me…

T: There are a lot of folk dances in Finland, a few special things to know, and the musician usually don’t know since they only play the music and keep to that.

But you dance too !

T: Yeah, I have some moves. *laughs* But for us, it’s just a way to have fun and to show we are having fun. And I think you know as a performer, we have to be a fool so the audience can feel a fool.

J: It’s true for me too, the more I dance, the more I’m having a fun time.

T: It’s all about this idea of how you are together with audience. It’s like we are on stage doing our thing and the crowd is out there doing their thing. It’s more like we’d go crazy together, that’s the big difference compared to some bands.

J: If we have a good time, it comes back to us.

Thank you a lot for your time and see you on stage!

Jonne and Tuomas: Thank you.

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